This section is from the "Studio Light Incorporating The Aristo Eagle - The Artura Bulletin 1919" book, by Aristo Motto. Also see Amazon: Studio Light Incorporating The Aristo Eagle - The Artura Bulletin 1919.
I was riding with a friend the other day and noticed that his speedometer registered twenty miles per hour when, as a matter of fact, we were going about forty.
"How does that instrument work?" I inquired. "Well," he replied, "it works and it doesn't work. The blamed thing registers 20 m. p. h. when I am really going about 35 or 40, and when I drop down to 20 m. p. h. or less it doesn't register at all, so I have to guess how fast I am really driving."
Such an instrument is unsatisfactory, to say the least, and the same is true in negative making when the material you use fails to register the quality you put in your lightings. I have just heard of a photographer who had approximated the reproductive ability of his plates for so long a time that his objection to films was that they reproduced his lightings as they really were.
He was using a short-scale, contrasty plate for which he had to flatten out his lightings. His first trial of Portrait Film was not satisfactory because from his low-tone, flat lighting he produced a low-tone, flat negative. "I want snap in my negatives and I don't get it with film," was his complaint to the demonstrator.
Some plate and film negatives were made with his regular method of lighting, but the demonstrator added a considerable amount of carbonate of soda to his regular developer. The results pleased the photographer. "Those negatives have 'pep'," was his way of putting it, but the demonstrator convinced him that they didn't have sufficient quality. They could not show more gradation than was in the short-scale, flat lighting. They did exaggerate contrasts, but nothing more.
"Now," the demonstrator remarked, "let's make some real strong, brilliant, long-scale lightings that will give you negatives of real quality - negatives that will give you prints with roundness and brilliancy and gradation. You must have quality in the lighting before you can reproduce it in the negative. You must have the sensitive material that will reproduce it in the negative and the paper that will reproduce the negative qualities in the print." The demonstrator knew film quality and wanted to prove his contention.
The lightings were made, the negatives made and the photographer chose film. His plate did not have Sufficient reproductive quality to photograph the things he saw as he saw them. He had camouflaged his lightings to favor his plate and he could not get roundness and brilliancy because these depend upon gradation and not contrast.
Film has the necessary long scale of gradation - all the range of tones between highlight and shadow. You can make the contrasts of the lightings as you like them. Film reproduces contrasts as they are.
Needless to say this particular demonstrator made lightings that not only could not be reproduced on the particular plate the photographer was using, but that could not be reproduced on any plate. And this is one of the greatest film advantages. The fact that home portraiture, difficult commercial work, interiors, etc., are robbed of their terrors by film is not merely a satisfaction to the film user, but points the way to more business and greater profits as well.
The photographer allows much work to slip from his grasp because he is unfamiliar with the conditions that may be encountered, and fears failure. The film user is like the school boy who learned by accident that he could fight. He was so confident of his ability that he wanted to whip the whole school. When you know what film will do you immediately want to try the most difficult things, and in doing so your scope of work grows larger, your ability becomes greater, and the quality and freshness and variety of your portraits brings its reward of new business.
Your customers know nothing about the limitations of the material you use. To them halation, blocky highlights, contrasty or flat lightings are meaningless expressions. But, photograph a child in a window, against the light, without showing halation, or let a little sunshine sharpen the contrasts of the picture without destroying the gradation from highlight to shadow - without hopelessly blocking one or the other, and your customers will shout their praise of the wonderful pictures you have made them. They may not know why a picture is good or what makes it good, but they do know when it is good.
Portrait Film Negative, Artura Print By J. L. Rivkin Tulsa, Okla.
Film quality is a very definite thing - a thing you can see and understand once you have used film. Because it does give truthful and flawless reproductions of the most difficult lightings, its broadening influence on your work will be felt just as it has been felt by thousands of other film users.
A Government photographer of construction work says: "Portrait, Commercial and Commercial Ortho Films were used for every possible kind of work. Portraits of officers, construction pliotographs of progress and the copying of tracings and blue prints under conditions that never existed in any studio. They were a decided success.
"I can truthfully say that they have proved to be one of the greatest advances in modern photography."